This popped up on a friend’s Facebook feed today. “This young man’s family [Naftali Fraenkel] chose to leave the USA and made Aliyah. In doing so, they unfortunately but knowingly assumed certain risks.”
I don’t know. I moved here for the coffee.
As I drank my first cup of Joe this morning, a double strength Americano, I thought about those three boys.
I thought about the daily risks of life in my hometown city of New York, the city that I reluctantly allowed my two older boys to explore, independently, on foot and by subway in their early teens. We were nervous, my husband and I, but determined to raise savvy, smart and safe city children.
As I swam my morning laps, awaiting that first cup of coffee, I thought about those three boys and their families.
Moving to Israel was a decision that happened almost by accident, after 21 years of convincing my husband, and later my older two teenaged sons that we should take a family adventure and be closer to my immediate family who’d moved to Israel over a twelve year period starting in 1983.
As I sat in a morning meeting, discussing important things like raising necessary funds for summer camp and inclusion education, I thought about those three boys and the funerals, happening today, in a country that is grieving.
We left behind my husband’s family, close friends and a community that wished us well even if not all understood why we were leaving. Some friends wondered at our ability to pick up and move in our mid-40’s with older kids. Others asked if we knew that the homes were small, that people didn’t make a lot of money, that social services for Akiva, our youngest who has special needs, might be limited.
We didn’t discuss politics, violence and the very real fear that many feel, especially for those who read the newspaper from afar, when it comes to everyday life in Israel.
Eight years later, my eldest says he feels less self-asorbed than many of his peers in the US, something that pleases him. My middle? While he struggles at times with the challenges of army service, he feels that his life has purpose, that he’s been trained to protect his country, his people – all of them. As for the youngest, sometimes I just give thanks that due to his disabilities, I just don’t worry about him hitchhiking or staying out all night or trekking in Outer Mongolia after the army. His life is good here – devoted teachers, great afterschool programs, and a sense of belonging to a greater community.
I’d hazard a guess that the three bereaved families, the Fraenkel’s, the Shaar’s, and the Yifrach’s, didn’t take lightly their decision to send their boys to study in the Hevron area. They thought about it, weighed it, clearly wanting to make a statement both religious and political about where Jews should be able to live, work and study in Israel.
You could call it risk-taking or you could call it reaching for the stars, convinced that a life well-lived, one that combined religious education and ethical living, would help drive the rest of us forward to a life of peace – here in Israel and elsewhere.
No parent really considers the alternatives, the worse-case scenarios, the heartbreak of what happened 18 days ago when the wrong car pulled up at a hitchhiking post and the 3 boys climbed in.
A friend’s daughter just made aliyah. Friends from Teaneck are poised to move this month.
Taking a risk? I think they’re making a choice, in a world where Jewish life and culture is affected and threatened by anti-semitism and violence.
I’m glad. They’re joining me on my mid-life Zionist adventure, after years of imagining it, considering it and thinking about it. Strangely enough, we’re content here, even on days like this, when your gut is clenched, and your very ability to breathe compromised.
I sip my coffee slowly, hoping for ease and praying for peace.